Body Confidence After 60
What is your first thought when you see a picture of yourself?
When you shop for clothes, do you look for clothing that fits your shape or flowy items to hide your body?
Are the majority of your feelings about your body positive or negative?
We often hear about teenage girls or young women's body image issues. Rarely do we read or hear about women over 60 and their struggles with body image.
Body dissatisfaction or disordered eating in midlife is often minimized, which is made clear by the lack of visibility in media. There is a common myth that women in midlife don't experience body dissatisfaction.
Here's the truth.
- In a 2012 study of 1,800 women aged 50 and over, 71% reported dissatisfaction with their weight.
- Women with higher BMIs reported greater weight and shape concerns, while women with lower BMIs reported dissatisfaction with their skin.
- Regarding dissatisfaction with specific body parts, 84% of women over 50 reported they were most unhappy about their stomachs.
- 71% reported current efforts to lose weight.
Body image problems do not end as women get older!
I fall squarely in with those groups of women that have experienced weight gain (far more than the average 10-15 pounds) and dissatisfaction with their bodies (especially my stomach).
I am always struggling to lose weight with mixed results.
The media shows us daily that young and thin are the ideal for women. When women reach middle age, they can start to feel invisible.
Even when you find mature women in media, they are almost always thinner than the average woman over 60. They quite often have had plastic surgery to remove wrinkles or loose skin.
These are not role models to look up to unless you like feeling bad about aging naturally.
As women age, they experience many physical changes that contribute to low self-esteem and a lack of confidence.
- An average weight gain of 10-15 pounds.
- Sagging or wrinkling skin.
- Changes in fat distribution.
- Health issues requiring medication that may have negative side effects.
- Lower energy levels.
- Hormonal changes.
These physical changes, combined with significant life experiences such as children leaving home, divorce, retirement, moving to a new home, taking care of elderly parents, and losing loved ones, can lead to anxiety, depression, isolation, and shame.
It's a vicious cycle!
These physical and emotional issues can create a vicious circle of bad habits like eating unhealthy comfort foods and sweet treats, not exercising, and ignoring self-care needs.
These bad habits create lower energy, weight gain, and low self-esteem.
Why are so many of us caught in this crazy vortex?
I believe it is because we are still listening to our inner critic pointing out all the ways we don't add up to the perfect woman depicted in media.
A study with 774 women showed that 40% of the women reported that the voice in their heads did not get kinder with age.
Body confidence starts with body acceptance and love.
"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
Women who learn to accept these mid-life changes to their bodies are kinder to themselves, more confident, and happy with their lives.
Judging ourselves harshly and labeling those parts we dislike as "bad" causes stress and unhappiness.
Take away the label, accept what is, and feel the shift in your emotions.
Acceptance doesn't mean you can't strive for change. It means being loving and kind to yourself through the process.
It's time for some self-compassion!
Self-compassion is about being kind to yourself.
Tell your inner critic to take a hike. Learn to talk to yourself the same way you talk to your best friend or a loved one.
If your best friend says, "I'm so fat. I'm just a big blob, and I hate going out because nothing fits me."
Is your response, "Yes, you are fat, and you look awful"?
Or, do you point out something special about her and offer to help her find something she will feel wonderful wearing?
Be gentle with yourself. Forgive yourself for any harsh self-talk.
Doing nice things for yourself doesn't need to be expensive or time-consuming.
There's the time-honored bubble bath (though I prefer soaking in a bath with a nice lavender-scented Epsom salt).
You can find inexpensive facial masks and body lotions to pamper your body with an in-home spa day.
Eating well and exercising are also ways that you take care of yourself. Treat yourself like someone you love.
Would you let a loved one lay on the couch eating snacks all day, then listen to them complain about how awful they look and feel?
Make friends with your body.
Take a long look in the mirror, with or without clothing. Shift your focus from all the things you aren't to all the things you are.
What's your favorite feature?
Now give a little love to that part of your body you like the least.
Loving and accepting all parts of your body will lift the anxiety that comes with always feeling like you need to fix something about yourself.
You are perfect and loved just the way you are!
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